Your kid is Fat or a Brat? You did it. Now fix it.

…or a bitch or a bully for that matter…

As you can probably tell, this is a very blunt post which involves no Political Correctness or pandering to your ego. Every time we tell someone that families are different and we need to do things our own way or a way that works for us, we are fiddling while Rome burns. And believe me, you don’t have to look at many kids to see just how quickly Rome is turning to ashes. If you’re feeling a bit precious, or down, this is not the post for you. Come back when you’re feeling brave.

For new readers let me be very clear. This is not my opinion. This is biology 101. The biology class everyone seems to have missed including most of the parenting experts. Our brains are in one of four states at any time: stressed, High Stress Short Term (HSST), Low Stress Long Term (LSLT) or calm. It really *is* that simple. What we have to do is work through all the things we would like to believe are true and accept and face what is true. And change things. I am not interested in your needs. You are an adult. You have conscious thought and you know raising children is temporary. Children’s brains don’t work like ours. They can’t rationalise. They think what is happening now is going to happen forever. And in a way, it does. The way children spend the first three to nine years sets them up for the rest of their lives. (Yes, there are exceptions – loads of sex with one person between 17 and 25 can change your brain for the better; processing all of your emotional baggage through therapy or some other kind of autobiographical process can also change your brain for the better.)

Food: If you can’t cook – learn. If you think you have a healthy diet and you are fat and your kids are fat – find new information, what you’re doing is wrong. Increase the amount of veges you eat until your plate is overflowing with them (onion, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, and greens especially). Watch corn, carrots, potatoes, and peas – use them as extras not the main deal. If you don’t like green veges – too bad. If your kids don’t eat them – have nothing else in the house – hungry kids will eat. Eat more protein. Not heaps of red fatty meat – real protein; low fat and low sugar dairy; tofu; pasture raised beef and lamb; low fat cheeses; chicken; and especially fish. Eat it all day long in small bits rather than a big lump at night. Include small portions of raw nuts in your diet. Small. Raw. Watch your grain, including rice, intake. Cows fatten nicely on grain. So do people. Eat fruit instead of soda, icecream and chocolate. If you’re eating more than one thing a day from a packet – you’re eating too much processed food. Eating according to biology makes us calm. (And skinny)

Sleep: Kids need lots of it. 10 hours for nine year olds; 11 hours for six year olds; 12 hours for younger than four. If you want your kids up late because you’re working and you want to see them – change job or change where you live. If you’re too woosey to get your kids into bed at night – harden up. Lie with them if they won’t settle. Sleep with them if they’re scared of the dark. For years. The kicking stops after 6 months. Enough sleep makes us calm.(And clever)

Listen to them: If your child talks later than others, you’re not listening to them enough. Children who have warm attuned mothers (and fathers) who try to work out what they are say – speak earlier. Use baby-sign language. It’s about them communicating with us – and very little about us teaching them. Help them when they ask for help and teach them to ask for help by saying, can you manage or do you need help – from toddlerhood. Being listened to puts us in the lovely LSLT state.

Learn to read their body-language: Children don’t tell you they’re stressed. Their behaviour tells you. And you need to work out what the problem is and change things for them. Learn to identify the different types of tantrums and deal with them appropriately – there is a whole section here on that. Attention seeking is a big fat lie – there’s a post about that too. HSLT is always reflected in behaviour and often in health.

Insist on Manners: Our brains are built to learn the rules of society. Kids with great manners have a much easier life than kids without. Take food or anything else away if they don’t say, ‘Thankyou’. Don’t put up with interrupted conversations (beyond the age of three or four). Don’t put up with rude tones of voice. Send them to their room. They can come back when they are ready to be polite. Don’t do anything for them until they apologise. Get firm. Stick to your guns. No messing about explaining things. Stop talking so much. Manners are expected – so they happen. Learning manners happens through HSST – many times a day over a many years.

Ignore them: Children are often bored. But only the kids who have been entertained all their lives. Stop it. Get on with what you’re doing and let them come to you when they need you. They are not going to fail life if they don’t know their colours at 3; they will if they can’t think for themselves. LSLT comes from being fully engaged and self-motivated.

Get rid of the electronics and battery run toys: until they’re nine or ten. I know you don’t want to. You’re addicted. Like the rest of us. This isn’t about you. It’s about your kids being in a constant state of stress. Watch them melt down when you remove it all – yes, that’s called withdrawl. It passes. If you have the balls to carry it through. Electronics put us into a state of stress. Excitement is processed by the brain the same way that fear is.

Give up on all the opportunities and activities: The only out of school activity children under nine need is swimming because it can save their life and it helps brain wiring. I’m not at all excited about your child reading early – no one has ever asked me what age I learned to read. I don’t care if you are proud of all the things you can provide for your kid. I’m interested in who your kids are as people. Kids who don’t play enough are horrid. Activities and opportunities are about the adults not about the kids – really – look who’s doing all the talking and directing – that’s key. Being busy is high stress. Stop it.

Remove almost all toys: Our brains are built to problem solve. To be in the ideal waking state of LSLT toys need to be open-ended – that is – they don’t look or sound like the real thing. Check our Laura’s post on the boy with no toys – beneath this one. Lego is great. (Not paid to say that.) Bits of cloth are better than dress-ups. Nails and hammers and bits of wood are magic. Play is the work of childhood. Get a grip on that and you’re kids are going to end up heaps better off than the kids who are only book smart. Self-motivated and open-ended activities are wonderful for LSLT.

Let them hurt themselves: Our older two boys are 10 and nearly seven – I can already tell which kids in their classrooms are most likely to have accidents…the ones who have never used a sharp knife; climbed a tree; fallen off a fence; biked out of Mum’s sight etc. Mr B who is two and a half falls over often, hurts himself often and gets on with things. At 10 let them organise themselves and face the consequences when they forget things for school. You really don’t want their first decisions to be made the year they leave home. Believe me. Let them make mistakes. Mistakes are good. Mistakes are where we learn. If we prevent all of their mistakes, we’re preventing their chances to learn for themselves. And knowing how to fix things after our mistakes is hugely empowering. Hurting yourself  and facing our mistakes is HSST – a good thing.

Say No: If there is one thing that is doing my head in around cyber-space is all you lot who won’t use No. You are meant to set the rules. Don’t buy them stuff for being good – they’re meant to be good. Stop all your star-charts and rewards programmes – they’re based on research done on dogs – your kids aren’t dogs. Stop praising them for farting on time. Say ‘Thankyou’ when they do what they’re meant to do and nothing else. You are meant to stop them from throwing things. You are meant to insist they wear a coat when it’s cold. Our brains need HSST to learn important stuff. Like cutting your finger – which hurts and it causes high stress short term and we learn not to…Your child needs you to give them that short intense dose of stress sometimes. That’s why spanking *can* work (not taking sides on that one). That’s why physically picking up your two year old and plomping to one side of the room *can* work. That’s why Time Out (where the child can reconnect and apologise in their own time – even immediately) *does* work. You have to emotionally disconnect short-term *if* you want your child to learn self-control and not be a brat. Yes, reconnect with hugs and kisses as soon as *they* are ready. Yes, keep nurturing them other times. No, don’t ever back down. No, you don’t have to be horrid about it. Just say – that’s not acceptable, come back when you’re ready to behave. And help them into their rooms if they need help. You have to make the break in emotional connection if their brains are to learn. They might tell you they hate you. They might tell you, you are the meanest mother in the world. So what? (HSST)

Ask them to do things: And expect them to be done. For other boundary setting techniques you can look in the section labelled boundary setting. I’m not spoon feeding the same information again. (HSST becomes LSLT as they contribute more and more.)

Teach them real skills for living: How to clean a loo; how to sew a button; how to ask for something in a shop; how to manage money; teach them about sex don’t leave it to their mates and don’t wait for them to ask – they might not; teach them how to cook; teach them how to grow their own food; teach them how to catch a bus and use a money machine. Teach them how to do things at their level and in small bites – the two year old pours milk with the glass on the kitchen floor. Teach them what their body is telling them about their emotional state, how to name their emotions and how to make things better for themselves. (LSLT)

Stop reasoning with them: You know all the consequences. You hold the big picture of the world. You have the whole family to hold together. Make the stand. You don’t have to be loud or ferocious about it. Just be matter of fact and firm. (HSST)

Tell them: You love them and are proud to know them. Every day. More than once a day.

Get over your pride: So your kid’s fat or a brat, your daughter’s a bitch or your son’s a bully. Yes you followed bad advice or automatically repeated patterns from your own childhood without realising it. Human brains are able to change. But like any habit change it’s not easy. It took us six and a half years. It was hell. No really. It was truly hell. But we got through it. We survived. We ignored all the raised eye-brows. We admitted we’d stuffed up and we changed things.

We are talking about our kids here – is anything else more important?


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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35 Responses to Your kid is Fat or a Brat? You did it. Now fix it.

  1. Vinny Grette says:

    Lots of advice here – maybe you should have considered several posts to better accommodate our short attention spans! Agreed with most, except perhaps “Let them hurt themselves.” Have to be a little more careful with that one. Well done!

    • Was venting a bit – hence the long post! Thanks for the comment…and please do let your kids hurt themselves – it’s important. 🙂

      • Vinny Grette says:

        If it was phrased something like: Don’t be afraid to let your kids try things for themselves, as long as you’ve taken reasonable precautions with obvious dangers…

        • hmmm, maybe. Our kids use(d) sharp knives from around 18 months – many people would think that wasn’t taking reasonable precautions… (I think we’re probably on the same general page here.) 🙂

  2. browncats says:

    Hi Karyn –
    Your blog makes sense to me in that it catalogs all of the “techniques” in parenting that made the most sense when I was raising my three years ago. I’m happy to report that my husband and I have three happy, productive, healthy adult children with whom we enjoy a highly functional peer relationship. They thank us all the time for saying “no” to them at the right times. Your simple outline for raising happy kids resonates with pure truth — keep it up!

  3. Great post, and I agree with you on all but one: the issue of some kids talking later than others. While what you are saying could well be true for many kids, late speech could be indicative of a developmental delay that requires intervention. If speech is delayed, the kid should be assessed. early assessment and diagnosis leads to early intervention, which in turn leads to much greater chances of success.
    Just wanted to add my voice of experience as an autism mom.

  4. Thanks for such a straightforward post! My kids are neither brats nor fat (mind you they are only 21 months and 2 months old), I try my best to set firm boundaries whilst letting my eldest explore the world around him. Its nice to have someone affirm that it is okay to say no. My son is 21 months, not talking so much yet but has never once said no back. I always provide explanations for my ‘no’ and when I do he seems to take it so much better than a flat out no you can’t do that because I say. The only thing I am not sure about is when to insist on manners since my boy doesn’t really talk much yet.

    • We began with Taa when our kids were just starting to speak, and our two year old can use please and thank-you in the right place and does automatically – most of the time. I am now working on him ‘showing me his pretty eyes’ when he talks to me. Pleased you can say no. After you’ve done that initial teaching though, feel free just to say, No because that’s just the way it is, or something like that. Most parents over talk and under act…if you know what I mean. Thanks for your comment, lovely to hear from you.

  5. Pingback: I tell my kids “no”. | two poppy seeds

  6. QueenArtLady says:

    Hi. I have been enjoying reading a few more posts. This one made me review what we are doing.
    Our 5 year old son started at the local Steiner Kindergarten this year. I always felt so sure that their approach is more developmentally sensitive – and now I have a crisis in my confidence in the philosophy. Can I e-mail you, I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Of course you can email me and thank you for asking. Steiner is the most sensitive educational approach and it matches our biology the best – but that’s the perfect Steiner world….Look forward to discussing this further with you. 🙂

  7. Laura Weldon says:

    Yay Karyn! I recently got in a bloggy spat with a mom who wrote a lengthy post about why children should never be “forced” to apologize because it teaches them to be inauthentic. She wrote that if her child hurts another child that SHE will apologize but never make her own child say he’s sorry. My response, explaining that living with other people is all about balancing rights with responsibilities, was bashed as another example of insensitive parenting. Your posts are continually smart, refreshing, and give me hope.

    I can’t help myself, I keep sharing every post you write.

    • Thanks Laura. I had a dreadful feeling that I had been too stroppy with this one. I know I am right though and it’s so lovely to have the support of people like you. Thanks so much. 🙂

      • Laura Weldon says:

        Okay, I’m really curious. You mentioned research showing positive brain chances take place with “loads of sex with one person between 17 and 25.” I must be reading different neuro books. If you could point me in the direction of where I might find some info on this I’d be fascinated. It says something about our cultural norms of extensive dating and delayed marriage as compared to nearly all of human history. And I have to admit, as someone who married at 18 and is still married that that same person, I wonder how bucking the norm may have helped the very stressed adolescent and young adult I was back then.

  8. I am so glad, again, for this blog. I’m truly enjoying it, and the comments your posts provoke.

    The writer part of me is curious as to what the story is behind the story. It’s the nosier part of me, I suppose.:) Last night I was writing a post for my own parenting blog and found myself calling out parents who seem to feel that discipline and manners are some sort of ‘optional’ part of life. (Of course, I’m letting that one sit and cure for a while…)

    Every year, my son’s preschool teacher sends home a short article titled “The Gift of No” to parents. That gift is not the apathetic, lazy “no” from across the room, but the “No” which comes with correction and a chance to make amends, to learn to do it properly, or to understand those boundaries that help us all live in a civilized society with each other. I didn’t use “no” when my son was a toddler (I used positive redirection, telling him to stop and then what he could do.) Once “no” was not an abstract concept and I knew that he understood it, it was employed. “No” can be as gentle or as negative as we make it.

    Keep on…

    • Thanks Hazel. I am in my ‘let’s shake ’em up’ phase -apparently. Always good to have some cheerleaders aboard keeping my confidence up! 🙂 I will do a back story one day – for part of it check out the ‘why we gave up electronics’ series…

  9. No one else is more important. I loved that! X

  10. My first attempt didn’t go through. I’ll try again…

    I agree with much of what you wrote. Some of it, I always knew. My son is 9 and still sleeps 11 hours. For many years, I didn’t have to be firm about bedtime, because I could let him sleep in. Now he needs to get up at 7, and he’s actually putting himself to bed when I’m too ‘woozy’. We’ve never had too many activities, because I remembered digging in the back yard as a kid, and climbing trees, and riding bikes, and knew all that was important. I kept the electronics at bay as much as I could. I talked to him incessantly when he was a baby, and let him hurt himself. (Reading The Continuum Connection years ago helped me do that.) But I’ve always reasoned with him too much, overexplained, and had trouble saying no.

    About a year ago, I read Parenting Without Power Struggles, and it shifted my philosophy of parenting to more firmness. With an 8-year-old used to getting his way way too much, it’s been a struggle, but I’m seeing some good results.

    I do disagree with a few things:
    1. Not low-fat dairy. Whole foods are best. The fat in the dairy helps you digest it. (Have you read Weston Price’s ideas on nutrition?)
    2. “You are meant to insist they wear a coat when it’s cold.” My son’s sense of temperature is not the same as mine. I insist he bring a coat; I don’t insist he wear it.
    3. I normally agree about not buying stuff. But I have helped my son go into difficult situations (a week with me gone, for instance) with a much better attitude, because he was looking forward to a very special toy if he handled it well. I have mixed feelings about this, but it helped so much.

    Thanks for reinforcing the stuff I’m working on getting better at.

    • Hi Sue, and thanks for making it all the way through this! I don’t usually write such long posts or on several topics at the same time – but didn’t feel it was fair to point the finger without giving people some ideas of things to change. No, I haven’t read Weston Price but am now keen to. I wonder if you ate other fat such as almonds with the low-fat dairy that would work? I am certainly open to being corrected on these kinds of things. I am going to disagree with you on the coat issue – children cannot properly self-regulate their temperature until they are teenagers. And I understand why you might have bought your son toys from time to time to get though those big situations the ‘what’s in it for me’ is very strong in children – I would be cautious about overuse though. It can be difficult to change from reasoning to just using no, and our boys will still try to negotiate and bargain with me. I think sometimes we imagine that No has to be ferocious when really we can say it firmly and quietly – softly even. I have a post just about discipline coming up – that might help too. Thanks for persevering! 🙂

  11. Elena says:

    Fantastic post. I’m going to have to read it over a few times, as rich as it is. So many ideas and so much information!

    • I’m so pleased you like it. 🙂 As you know, not usually this long or this rude! As I said to Sue on previous comment, I didn’t think I could tell people they’d stuffed up and then not give them some ideas where they could change things – so it ended up a bit of a novel.
      I have a great post on discipline organised for tomorrow morning NZ Time – think you’ll like that one too…

  12. dubiousme says:

    You should make a parent’s handbook. The modern parent seems to feels kids are an accessory not a responsibility.

    • Thanks! And I agree that many parents don’t seem to take their parenting seriously.
      I have two books on the go at the moment. The first on about temperament is going to be published by Amazon in the next month or so, and the second with a few tips and tricks is (fingers crossed) due out in August. These are the first two in a series – so watch this space. 🙂

  13. Angela Harford says:

    Get rid of most of their toys – love it! I’m a hoarder and my kids have so many toys because I think oh, maybe one day they’ll play with that. But its generally the more expensive ones that hold their attention for the least amount of time! I need an excuse to get rid of the clutter. Clutter drives me insane! I always only ever wanted open-ended toys for them but well-meaning family bought them other things, most of which they don’t play with! This is very freeing and will have me to be more calm! Also the comment on let them be bored. I’m scared of allowing them to be bored because I feel its my job as a Mother to keep them entertained. But I think its true – if they’re bored long enough they will find something the entertain themselves with!

    • Absolutely! Have an on-line garage sale and make yourself some cash too! Thanks for stopping by and commenting Angela, it’s great to be touching base with you again. 🙂

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